Bank of Beirut

Founded: 1963
Total Assets*: US$12.09 billion
Customer Deposits*: US$9.62 billion
Ranking by Assets*: 7

(*as of Dec 31, 2021, ABL Almanac 2022, converted at LL1507.5/US$) 


Realty Business Bank SAL opened in 1963 and was renamed Bank of Beirut in 1970. In 1992, with just five branches operating in Lebanon, the company was purchased by a group of Lebanese bankers and businessmen, led by the present Chairman-General Manager Salim Sfeir. Bank of Beirut subsequently began to expand rapidly both in Lebanon and overseas.[1]

As the current chairman of the Association of Banks in Lebanon (ABL), Sfeir has been a target of public anger over the financial crisis. Indeed, protesters rallied outside Sfeir’s house in Beirut to decry Lebanon’s spiralling economic conditions as recently as February 2023.[2]

In his capacity as Chairman of ABL, Sfeir is a key figure in the Lebanese political arena, representing the interests of the banking lobby and meeting regularly with politicians and Banque du Liban Governor Riad Salameh.[3]

Sfeir has exerted strong influence on the progress of financial regulatory legislation in the Lebanese Parliament. Most notable was his objection to an urgent capital control draft law – which contained standardised withdrawal limits and money transfer blocks – after it was presented at the Parliamentary Finance and Budget Committee on March 28, 2021.[4]

Sfeir has since been implicated in ongoing investigations into the banking sector. In March 2022, the Attorney General in Mount Lebanon issued a travel ban against Sfeir and four other chairmen at Lebanese banks as she investigated transactions by their institutions.[5]

Robert Khalil Sursock, of Beirut’s famous aristocratic Sursock family, is also on Bank of Beirut’s board of directors.[6]


The largest single shareholder (23.18%) in Bank of Beirut is the Luxembourg-based International Century Corporation SA. S.P.F.[7] Amongst the ultimate beneficial owners (UBOs) of this holding company are Sfeir and Fawas Naboulsi.[8] Sfeir and Naboulsi are simultaneously UBOs of International Century Corporation Lebanon SAL Holding, which has a 5.34% stake in Bank of Beirut.

Additionally, Sfeir is a UBO of Sfeir Bancorp Limited, which owns 4.68% of the bank, while Naboulsi is a UBO and director at FSHN Limited, which has 4.65% of Bank of Beirut.[9]

In 2018, Merit SAL Holding, an investment vehicle formerly held by French Lebanese businessman Jacques Saadé, bought a 4.38% stake in Bank of Beirut.[10] Jacques passed away that same year and Merit SAL Holding‘s ownership was divided equally among his three children.

Merit Holding SAL is 99.9% owned by CMA CGM Shipping the world’s third largest shipping company. 60.69% of CMA CGM is, in turn, owned by Merit Corporation S.A, itself owned by the Saadé family. The shipping firm was founded by Jacques Saadé and is presently managed by his son, Rodolphe Saadé as chairman and CEO.

Rodolphe Saadé & family are presently worth $23.4 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, and have long been woven into the French political arena.[11] Rodolphe Saadé has publicly declared his support for French President Emmanuel Macron, whom he has regularly accompanied on state visits, including to Beirut following the port explosion in 2020.[12] Following this, CMA CGM was awarded a 10-year contract to run, operate and maintain Beirut port’s container terminal, adding to its pre-existing control of the container terminal in Lebanon’s second biggest city, Tripoli.[13]

Merit Holding has frequented the news through its acquisition of large stakes in Lebanese companies, including buying 100% of the shares of Al Rifaï.[14] More controversially, in 2021, whilst Lebanese were struggling to withdraw their money from domestic banks following the imposition of illegal capital controls, the Saadés re-registered Merit S.A.L. Holding, moving it from Lebanon to France.[15]


[1] ‘Bank of Beirut’ AFCM, accessed 9 March 2023,

[2] ’Protesters set fire in front of the outer iron door leading to the house of the head of ABL’, MTV, (Online: 16 February 2023), online at:–salim-sfeir

[3] Nada Maucourant Atallah, “Has the Bankers honeymoon with Salameh ended?” L’Orient le Jour (Online: 13 July 2022), online at: (

[4] Omar Tamo, “At last a capital control law is ready for parliamentary committee scrutiny. Here’s what the draft contains”, L’Orient Le Jour, (Online: 28 April 2021),Online at:

[5] “Lebanon Bank Prosecutor Bans Five Bank Board Chiefs from Travel”, Middle East Eye (Online: 10 March 2022), online at:

[6] May Makarem, ”Portraits and palaces”, small pieces of family memory”, L’Orient Le Jour (Online: 4 December 2018), online at:

[7] Association des Banques du Liban, ‘Almanac of Banks in Lebanon 2022’ (Beirut: Association des Banques du Liban, 2022).

[8] Ministry of Justice, ‘Commercial Registry of Lebanon’, accessed 9 March 2023,

[9]  Association des Banques du Liban, ‘Almanac of Banks in Lebanon 2022’.

[10] ’News room’, Bank of Beirut, accessed 10 March 2023,

[11] “Billionaires Index: Rodolphe Saade & Family”, Bloomberg (Online: March 2023), online at:

[12] Joe Macaron, ”The French Initiative in Lebanon: Endgame and Challenges” Arab Centre Washington DC (Online: September 16 2020), online at:

[13] Alex Ray, ”Business as Usual: Long-Standing Corruption Threatens Beirut’s Reconstruction” Triangle (Online: 4 April 2022), online at:

[14] ’La Merit Holding Societe Mere de CMA CGM acquiert 100 de la societie Al Rifai’ L’Orient le Jour (Online: 9 March 2021), online at:

[16] Ibid.


All content provided in this report (the Report) is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, financial or any other professional advice. The Alternative has made every attempt to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information provided in the Report. However, due to the opacity of available sources of information, The Alternative has relied on the most up to date and self-reported figures from the Association of Banks in Lebanon (ABL) and its member banks, when available. When ABL and banks data was not available, The Alternative relied on physical copies of Lebanon’s commercial registry, online databases and other credible sources. In addition, The Alternative contacted each of the bank’s communications departments for confirmation of data regarding the shareholding and management of said banks. Only Bank Audi and BLOM Bank provided relevant information, both of which have been included in their entirety. Amongst others, the sources of the Report include various commercial registries, official bank websites, online aggregators, databases dedicated to company registration, the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), Bilanbanques reports, and many others.   

The information provided in the Report is done “as is” without warranty of any kind, express or implied. The Alternative shall not be held liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The Alternative does not accept any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, content, completeness, legality, or reliability of the information contained in the Report. Furthermore, The Alternative shall not be liable for any losses or damages from the display or use of this information. If anyone has information relating to the Report, The Alternative welcomes it. All information sent to The Alternative will undergo a thorough validation process, and the report will be updated accordingly. For any relevant information or inquiries, please contact [email protected].


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